I was hoping for a good Super Bowl game, and it wasn't, but I at least was at a nice, congenial gathering, so all was well. That leaves the commercials to comment on. And I'll just mention one, which (for me) stood out as the best, and probably got the most attention -- that would be Chrysler's ad with, of all, people, Bob Dylan.
Yet good as it was -- and it was terrific -- there was one thing seriously wrong with it.
(By the way, before getting to that, there was something else worth noting. A very subtle thing in the ad, seemingly innocuous which I suspect slid by most people, but I think it was there for a very specific purpose. It's when Dylan is at a book stall, and there are several publications that say "Bob Dylan" on them. My guess it was there for two similar reasons. One reasons is that there are probably a lot of people in the viewing audience today who don't have a clue who Bob Dylan is. It's not like last year when they had Clint Eastwood -- most people would know him instantly, even before his Talking Chair debacle. Given that there are probably a fair number of people who couldn't tell you who the vice president is, I don't think it's unreasonable to think that a larger number don't know Dylan. The other reason is that while most people likely do know who Bob Dylan is, there probably are a great many who don't have a clue what in the world he looks like. He's pretty reclusive after all. So, those book and magazines covers that said, "Bob Dylan," were likely to tell viewers, "Hey, folks, just letting you know that this guy here is Bob Dylan.")
Okay, that aside, back to the point here: and that is -- as I said -- much as I liked the ad, there was one thing that bugged me about it. A lot. And which ultimately detracts greatly from its effectiveness. Oddly, it was also one of the more memorable, fun passages.
It's when Dylan tells the public that it's okay to buy your beer from Germany, and your watches from Switzerland, and you Smartphones from Japan -- just make sure you buy your cars in America.
That's a great, impactful passage. Wonderfully crafted. And it leaps out. But the thing is, it also wipes out the very point of the ad. After all, lest we forget: the very first line is "Is there is anything more American than America?" This is an ad that, from that very first line, is honing in on your patriotism, pulling at your heart strings for your country, and line after line, it builds on that. America. America great, unique, special. The second line is, "Because you can't import 'original.' You can't fake 'true cool.'" Why? Because this is America. And image after image after image shown to us is about America -- baseball, farmland, American icons.
And then... and then, as the ad builds to its culmination, they tell us -- it's okay to buy German beer, Swiss watches and Japanese technology?? Just make sure you buy cars from Detroit??!
Seriously? No, seriously, I mean, seriously??? That's the climax of their patriotic message? Screw the rest of the country, screw the rest of the businesses, industries and workers in America. But buy cars from Detroit.
If that's the sales pitch they want to make, it's a standout line, no question about it. And the freedom of choice does mean you can buy the best product wherever in the world it's from. But when you're grounding your pitch in the middle of a cry for patriotism and how great America and Americans are and weaving the flag with your heartstrings... boy, howdy, it sure leaves a big, gaping, cold hole for me.
Especially considering how the administration actually bailed out Detroit with the country's money in 2009.
In fact, especially considering that this is the second time Chrysler has been bailed out by the government. The first, of course, being in 1980.
"Screw everyone else, we got ours."
In many ways, it was a wonderful ad. And it was amazing to see Bob Dylan. But no matter how good the ad was, no matter who starred in it, that was its message at the end. Maybe they thought the public would have short memories and forget. But it's still what they were saying, whether people remember or not.
Mind you, it would be a terrible message to leave even if Detroit hadn't gotten bailed out. Trying to implore the American audience explicitly through patriotism, waving the American flag high above the American crowd, and crying out to America that there's nothing more American than America -- and then dismissively saying, "But as long as you buy Detroit cars, we don't care one whit if you buy foreign products for everything else." And make no mistake, that was the message they left us with.
"Screw everyone else, we got ours."
And in the end, that's not American.
No matter how much today's Far Right and Tea Party corporations wants to try to make you think it is.
To read more from Robert J. Elisberg about this or many other matters both large and tidbit small, see Elisberg Industries.